Newspaper group confronts self-storage industry over changes in lien laws

February 3, 2015 4
Newspaper group confronts self-storage industry over changes in lien lawsNew Mexico state Sen. Lisa Torraco is sponsoring a bill that would update her state’s lien law.

The New Mexico Press Association is fanning the flames of the ongoing tussle over self-storage lien laws — and the self-storage industry is firing back.

In a post on its website, the New Mexico Press Association, which represents newspapers around the state, takes on the self-storage industry over efforts to change the storage lien law in New Mexico.

The association aims to block a proposed change in New Mexico’s public-notice provision for lien sales. As it stands now, state law requires that notices of storage auctions be published in local newspapers. The proposed update would allow public notices to be published online as well as in local newspapers.

The [self-storage] industry’s thumb is already heavy on the scale of justice where its consumers are concerned.
— New Mexico Press Association

“In state after state, the self-storage industry is arguing that the industry should further enhance its power over its renters by providing little public notice of a property seizure and auction, other than on a facility owner’s own website,” the press association argues.

Industry pursues change

Tim Dietz, chief operating officer of the Self Storage Association, confirmed his group and the New Mexico Self Storage Association are lobbying to revise that state’s storage lien law. Changes being advocated by the self-storage associations would let storage operators in New Mexico:

  • Send lien-sale notices to overdue tenants via email as well as via traditional mail.
  • Promote storage auctions online.
  • Publish official notices of lien sales online rather than only in a local newspaper.

On Feb. 2, a New Mexico Senate committee held a hearing on a bill that would enact those changes. State Sen. Lisa Torraco, a Republican from Albuquerque, is sponsoring the legislation (Senate Bill 311).

Tim Dietz

Tim Dietz of the Self Storage Association says New Mexico’s lien law should be updated.

Regarding publication of lien-sale notices in newspapers, Dietz told The Storage Facilitator: “Classified advertisements are a $1 billion industry, yet because of obvious factors, such as a more broad reach electronically, much of the traditional advertising has migrated online. Only statutorily required legal advertisements create a constant source of revenue for newspapers, which is why we see their opposition in updating these laws consistent with market-driven sectors.”

For tips on promoting your storage auctions online, visit blog.selfstorage.com/self-storage-auctions/tips-for-promoting-storage-auctions-4984.

For years, the now-struggling newspaper industry has depended on lien notices and other legal advertising for a considerable chunk of revenue.

‘Grasping at revenue’

Jeffrey Greenberger, an attorney in Cincinnati, OH, who represents self-storage facilities across the U.S., called the New Mexico newspaper group’s stance on public-notice requirements “horribly wrong.” Around the country, he said, newspaper associations have been “grasping at revenue” by fighting proposed changes in public-notice requirements for lien sales.

In the handful of states where public-notice requirements have been relaxed, Greenberger hasn’t heard an outcry from self-storage consumers. “I haven’t seen the harm,” he told The Storage Facilitator.

On its website, the New Mexico Press Association rips the self-storage industry.

On its website, the New Mexico Press Association rips the self-storage industry.

Mandating publication of lien-sale notices in newspapers actually takes money out of tenants’ pockets, according to Greenberger. That’s because any advertising costs are subtracted from auction proceeds—all of which must be handed over to the renters whose units are sold.

Erosion of trust?

The New Mexico Press Association maintains that changing public-notice requirements in its state and elsewhere erode consumer trust in the self-storage industry.

“Consumers storing property in public storage pay a fee for the safe keeping of their personal property. In return, consumers expect to reclaim the property in good condition,” the press association says.

“A lucrative self-storage industry has grown around this assumption of trust,” the association adds. “But the arrangement does not always work as intended. Humans can make mistakes. Consumers can fail to pay. Facility owners can fail to live up to their obligations.”

Jeffrey Greenberger

Attorney Jeffrey Greenberger calls the newspaper group’s stance “horribly wrong.”

Dietz defends the self-storage industry’s campaign to modernize public-notice requirements for lien sales.

“Public notice was never meant to fill a direct-notice function. That is satisfied by direct notice. Traditionally, public notice has been used to drive bidders,” Dietz said.

“But the process has already changed, and bidders are already learning of sales through alternative means,” he added. “It amounts to one private sector subsidizing another private sector because it is compelled to utilize an outdated method.”

The press association fears that altering New Mexico’s public-notice requirement would erase “checks and balances” designed to protect self-storage customers.

online storage auction

The New Mexico bill would pave the way for online notices about storage auctions.

“Granting the industry’s wish [for updated public-notice requirements] would reverse a half-century of transparency and consumer-oriented due process,” the press association says. “The industry’s thumb is already heavy on the scale of justice where its consumers are concerned. Eliminating transparency would add more weight that puts consumers at greater risk.”

No modern-day fix

Greenberger said public notices in newspapers might have been a good way to attract bidders to storage auctions “back in the day,” but they’ve never resolved the issue of alerting tenants whose rent is overdue and whose belongings are set to be auctioned.

“Newspaper advertising never fixed it in the past,” Greenberger said, “and it’s never going to fix it in this day and age.”

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  • finsup1

    This is laughable. Auction notices would be read by far more people if they were published (for free) on line through Craigs List, say, than in the legal notices section of any newspaper. And who reads newspapers anymore, anyhow?

    • John

      I do but I concede I am in the minority I have not seen the auction listings on craigslist. I have also never seen a legal notices section on craigslist. I think posting the notice on a “defaulted lease” page would be appropriate. And perhaps craigslist should create a legal notice section since every one uses craigslist.

  • Storage Guy

    Taking just 1 newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal, has lost 50,000 Subscribers since 2006 – down from 150,000! THAT’S why the Storage industry is fighting for change – Nobody reads the papers anymore – that’s why they’re going bankrupt all across the country. No surprise the papers are fighting back, this would be one more nail in their coffin before they all become obsolete.

  • Steve Barnhardt

    Our local paper jacked their advertising rate roughly 300%. Why should I be held hostage by a dying industry. I would rather have my rent any day than to have to auction a unit and as the attorney said, the newspapers don’t provide any safeguard. These past due renters are deadbeats and I doubt they read the paper anyhow, the general public doesn’t. For the papers, it’s all about a last gasp effort to collect their revenues just as an auction is a last gasp effort to collect from a deadbeat.